Travel

Excited by Airbnb!

With my tenure in the Middle East coming to a close, I have set my mind on new adventures. My current musing have me, in my mind’s eye, backpacking around Europe. A Europe of the summer type of event. This, as we all know, is not the cheap time to be in Europe. Normally, I would consider the shoulder season, unless there is a specific date range that I need to be in a specific country for. Shoulder season is the better time to be in the land of the Euro. The prices are cheaper, the crowds are less, and the weather is still pretty nice. Current planning still has me heading back across the Atlantic in the spring shoulder season. That will allow me to cover some ground before prices start to climb. After the prices start to climb, I have been researching options to keep the overall cost down to a reasonable extravagance.

This research has led me to become extremely curious about Airbnb. I have heard a lot about Airbnb over the last couple years but have never tried them out. I tend to just find low cost hotels and consider that good enough. I’m not a hosteler. I’m too old for that experience. So, it’s usually hotels.

I was reading a good piece on keeping things within budget from light-travels.co. It is a great blog, full of good advice, and a breeze to read. In a section regarding maximizing your travel money, Carly (the blog’s author) was a great proponent of Airbnb, as their pricing for stays of more than a couple days was a good cost savings. This article led me to their website. Since then, I have spent many hours on their site typing in different cities and date ranges to see what is on offer. I am continuously amazed by the difference in pricing they offer compared to even low-grade hotels in the same cities.

I have to say, this has me very excited. I even changed my way of thinking about the trip to incorporate more week-long Airbnb locations, as opposed to 2 and 3-day hotel stays. I’m hoping that this will extend out my available travel time by keeping the cost down. I will definitely be letting everyone know how things are going once I get out on the backpacking trail. Until then, I’m just super excited about looking at the website and seeing what the available options are.

Hopefully, this gets you thinking about ways you can stretch your travel budget. Travel doesn’t have to be overly expensive. It just tends to end up that way via the path of least resistance. If you look around for options, they are usually there for you. Definitely look around before you just book that all-inclusive vacation package. A little research will save you some money.

Now get out there. Go vacation and stuff.

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Travel

Just Say Yes.

This post isn’t really a travel post. It’s more of a mindset post. It’s about how you end up doing the things you end up doing.

Generally, I find that my friends fall into one of two broad categories. There are people that take the chances, go do the things they want, and generally have a good time. Then, there are those that are set back more, always justifying why they shouldn’t do something, and are generally sedentary. I have a lot of people in this second group that will say things like: “I can’t believe you did that.”, “I thought about doing that, but…”, “I don’t know how you do those things or go to those places?”, and a host of others. In my distinct opinion, they all boil down to meaning the same thing. When the opportunity came along, for whatever reason, they said no. It’s as simple as that.

I admit that I’ve done a few crazy things in my lifetime. How this happens to me, and why I am never at a loss for a story in a bar can be summed up pretty easily. When the universe offers me a new/stupid/crazy/exciting opportunity, as a general rule, I say yes.

It’s that simple. When I stumble across things that look intriguing, I decide if I can pull it off or not, and I say yes. By pull it off, I don’t mean succeed at it. I have failed in multiple different things, after repeated attempts to do them. (Sometimes, I learn slow.) I have made numerous bad decisions, but I have also made many, many more good decisions. Repeated attempts to learn to surf, maybe a bad decision. Trying to climb Mt. Rainier and failing badly every time, maybe a bad decision. Running with the bulls, awesome idea.  Riding the motorcycle to Sturgis, awesome idea. Heading down to Machu Picchu, awesome idea. And so on, and so on, and so on.

I find that most people say no, by default. They almost don’t even know they are doing it. They rationalize away their decisions, “with maybe next year”, or “it’s not financially a good idea right now.” All the rationalizations people use are simply ways of saying no. I think it’s somehow a learned response these days. Society has trained people to hold off, or to prioritize things so they are better for society. I tend to see things as what’s best for me? What new adventure can I have? What’s exciting that can be accomplished? Not being open to the idea of saying yes to things as they are presented to you, will just end up putting you in a position where less new things are presented to you. Or, that my view of the universe.

I check myself after saying no, and ask why not? It forces me to keep the idea of saying yes, in the present. I have made myself relearn a couple of important lessons over the years. I usually do the relearning once I am in the middle of the next grand idea. Those two lessons are as follows. One, Time is not the same as money. Time is life, and you only have a certain amount of it. Two, if you’re only worried about the money, don’t. the money will come back, but the time never will. Both are true, whether or not you buy into the ideas.

This is another one of those posts that was supposed to be happier in its tone than it came out. Odd? So, look at what you want to do, and say yes. It’s that simple, say yes. Don’t just dismiss ideas as not obtainable. You can have all the adventures you want to have. You do all the things you want to do. Some things will require more work than others, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. Seriously, one day I’m gonna learn to surf! It will happen. I may be 80 and on a long board, in the kiddy waves section, but it will happen. When Chance offers you a choice, SAY YES. (Seriously, that’s how I ended up working in the Middle East.)

Topside after my first dive. Great Barrier Reef. 2015. Definitely, a good yes idea!

Now get out there. Live your own adventure. Say yes to life. You’re gonna die at the end. Don’t die with things still unaccomplished.

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Travel

Petra, the Almost Grand Tour.

I stayed the night in Wadi Mousa, so I could be in Petra when they open. Getting in before the tour buses arrive with day-trippers helps me see it they way they show it on the Travel Channel.

Petra opens at 0600. After I had breakfast and checked out of the hotel, it was 0715 before I made it back inside the gate. Even that late, I could tell I was still ahead of the game. Most of the ‘camel ride mister’, ‘you need guide mister’, ‘you want to go to High Place’ people weren’t out for the morning yet. It made for a quiet walk in.

I stopped and got the obligatory selfie in the Indiana Jones gap in front of the Treasury. This time it was sans other people. (It was the only picture I wanted, and represented the whole trip. It just is what it is.)

Okay, I actually took half a dozen. But, who’s counting?

From this point, the rest of the place was new to explore. There was the Street of Facades, the Theater, the Colonnade, the Temples of the Kings, and the Basilica. There was a bunch of other stuff too, but I don’t remember the names.

They say that most tourists don’t go any farther than the Treasury, and then they head back out. That’s sad. There is so much to see that you need to go deep into it and look around. From the Basilica hill you can get good pictures of several things that are too big to do up close. This is especially true of the Great Temple, which is a multi-terraced affair.

I made it almost all the way to the Monastery. I turned back from the heat and steepness of the trail. Sorry Travis, I almost got pictures. That being said, the Middle of the complex rests in an open area between two sandstone formations. It holds the bulk of the stuff to see, and offers the best picture taking. Do yourself the service of at least going in that far.

Mission complete. I made my tour of the Canyon of the Crescent Moon and returned out before the heat of the day really got brutal. (Okay, I know it’s not a crescent moon, but I couldn’t resist the Indian Jones reference,)

Now, to kill 5 hours somehow, until my bus heads north to Amman.

As a side note, you can catch a taxi straight to Petra from the airport. They have it listed with a standard rate on the taxi stand board out front on the arrivals level.

Now, only 3 hours left to kill.

I found a quite spot in the back of the museum that nobody was using for a bit. Only 2 hours to go now.

And … I’m in a bus! There was a little bit of In-Sha-Allah in this last part, but that’s what makes life interesting.

Now, get out there. Do stuff!

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Work and Play.

Its been a little while since I’ve been here. Work has been a bit like work lately, and summer in the desert has been brutally hot the last several weeks. So, I’ve been just trudging through life.

One of the things about traveling for work and adventure is that, at the end of the day, there is work to be done. A lot of strings you will read only talk about the cool things going on and skip over the everyday drudgery of life. I’m guilty of this as well. I like hitting the high points. Mostly, because they’re high points. Everybody loves cool stuff. The rest of the time, its work and the daily grind.

It has been this way here, since I got back from Thailand. I pretty much just put my head down and settled into my desk for a while. A couple days ago I decided it was time to take a day. Not a vacation day or a sick day, but a me day.

At the start of my Me Day, I started writing a new chapter of a story. The last story wasn’t holding my interest, so I shelved it for a bit. The writing was good! It came right out of my head like nothing.

After the writing and a pot of coffee, I was out the door. I walked out the front gate of the building and found a ready cab. Cabbie saw me and swung right over to the curb. It took goggle maps and a little hand language to get him to understand I wanted the Harley Davidson dealer on the north side of the city. We got on the same page, he turned around and we headed north.

Fortunately for me, the cab driver was hungry. We no more than got to the dealership and he asked if I wanted him to wait. I said yes, since the shop is in the industrial area. Several hundred dollars later and we were headed south. Traffic was kind of light and the drive was good both ways. Just a nice morning to be out in the city.

The afternoon consisted of a couple movies from the iTunes Store and a large takeout shawarma from the shop next to the apartment. I tried to stay up to watch Shark Week on Discovery, which doesn’t come on until 2300 here, but decided against it.

All in all, a good day off. Every now and again you need to stop and look around. That way you don’t miss what’s going on. Even here, in the middle of the desert.

Quiet traffic out on the mean streets of Kuwait.

Now, get out there. Go do stuff.

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Great, there’s a sand storm.

So, last week it was kind of dusty out. I don’t think you could call it a sandstorm. It was more like sand blowing around in the air to the point of annoyance.

You hear these stories of sandstorms all the time. A Great Wall of dust that was lifted off the earth and flung at you for days on end. It darkens the sky and infuriates even the nicest of men and beasts alike. Ya, this wasn’t that. I have to admit that when I came back to the Middle East getting that iconic wall of sand photo was high on my agenda. Now, while still on my list of stuff, it has slipped down the ladder.

My time in Turkey was beautiful weather and no sandstorms. Egypt was the same way. I have good sand dune pictures, but no sandstorm picture. I know, be careful what you ask for, it could be awful. Could be …..

My only sandstorm experience so far was more like; “hey guys it’s pretty crappy outside. The sand stings my eyes.”

“Oh ya, we noticed that too.”

It was just a dull brown from one horizon to another. And, safety glasses really didn’t help completely. It was a little surreal.

I guess I can say I that, at some point, I’m gonna get a real sandstorm and maybe the iconic photo. Until then, sand blowing around in the wind will have to do.

That’s that. I’m still chasing the sandstorm. That, and a thousand other experiences. What are you chasing?

Get out there! Go after it!

A picture from the daily commute. 😎

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Travel

Seven Continents or Bust!

I’ve been watching a lot of travel shows lately. I find it helps to keep my wanderlust up during periods where I’m not actually traveling. They also provide me with ideas on where to go next. I like finding ideas on new and obscure travel locations, and then daydreaming as I might actually get there one day. It’s a good use of brainpower.

It seems that, as of late, all the travel shows seem to have converged upon a theme. I’m not sure if it’s intentional or if it just happens as a matter of volume. The longer one travels, the more of the hit list locations get checked off, and the more one needs to move farther afield to find new travel destinations. I suppose it’s a natural side effect of longevity.

The theme that I am alluding to is the need to visit all seven continents. Stepping foot on all seven continents is seen, in some circles, as the mark of a real traveler. In other circles, a real traveler is someone who has gone to a new land and learned how to live in a new culture. In other circles, one who has thoroughly explored a region is considered a travelers. Everyone uses the definition that best suits the way they view the world.

So, I guess my question of the blog post is this: Do you need to step on every continent to consider yourself well-traveled? Where I would think the answers are either yes or no, there are as many justifications for those answers as there are people answering. And that, is the beauty of individuality.

My personal answer to this question is no. I am also sure about my answer. Let me explain why. In my experience, travel is NOT a collection of places. A bunch of pins on a map, or stamps in a passport, without the experience of those places, is just a bunch or pins or stamps. When you go someplace new, you learn. You may learn about the difference in how people travel from point A to point B. You may learn about other people history in a specific country or region. You may learn how people get on with other people, or the things they hold sacred, or the way they grow food, or the things they teach their children. But, above all, you learn something. If I have gone somewhere and learned only that I didn’t want to go back there (Which has rarely ever happened), I still learned something. That something is the thing that give travel meaning. It is the thing that you try to pass on to others. Travel stories and barroom tales are all just collections of you telling someone else your lessons learned through traveling.

Here’s a small diversion to maybe help prove my point about a collection of pins. I have managed five of the seven continents. They would be North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. I have spent excessive amounts of time in North America, and Europe. Would I say that I have traveled through them enough to know them and learned what there is to learn? Absolutely, no.

I live in the US, and have travelled to all but five of the states. Yet, there are still probably over a hundred things still on my US to-do list. Places I want to go and things I want to do, before I stop travelling around the US and call it seen. Obviously, those hundreds of things don’t all hit into five states. They are still scattered all over the US.

As I said, I’ve been to Africa. It was in 2000. I took a Contiki trip to see Egypt. The trip was excellent and I saw a great deal of Egypt. I definitely did things that I would not have done if I had solo traveled around the country. (I am not necessarily endorsing Contiki. I’m definitely a solo traveler by nature. BUT, if you’re not the go it alone type, I will say that if you’re 18-35 and want to get out and see the world, Contiki is an excellent company to utilize. I have countless good things to say about my experience travelling with them, and the people I met.) Did I see all that Egypt had to offer, no. Did I get to plant my pin in the African continent, yes. Because I’ve been there, and planted my pin, should I not go back? I say, no. There are a whole list of places I want to visit in Africa as well. I plan to have grand adventures in and around the African continent.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the idea of saying you have been to all seven continents, as if you’ve accomplished some great task, means you’ve missed the point of travelling to begin with. Travel is supposed to enrich your life. Travel is supposed to open your eyes to new cultures and to new ideas. Travel is supposed to be – rewarding, not simply a collection of pins.

I have met people that have spent all of their time simply travelling their own country. They never escaped to farther fields, yet they are definitely more travelled than I am. They went out and saw something new, and with opened eyes were rewarded with new experiences. Those are the people I love to talk to. Their passion for places just over the hill or across the state make me want to go to those places too. To experience the same things they did.

That, in my opinion, is why we all travel. Not to collect pins (Though we all collect pins), but to have new experiences.

Now get out there. Go.

 

Two good friends of mine I was motorcycling around with, somewhere in the US Southwest. I’m thinking sometime around 2010 or 2011. Even though I had been to the southwest several times before, I had never been there – until then.

 

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But, I want to see that place. with the thing. you know.

One of my favorite lines from any movie is one from the movie Eurotrip. “We can to see Europe, not some crappy statue.”

I think this statement leads to an important question about why people travel. It leads to an interesting thing, which is how you set up your travels and where/when you go. Basically, this would be: what do you travel for?

Personally, I’m an art and architecture guy. I like big, old, historical building and monuments. I like history. I love good paintings, specifically the Old Masters. The big cathedrals, the classic basilicas, the coliseum, the area lines of Nazca, that’s what I find interesting. I like god statues and excellent paintings. The Hall of Rubens in The Louvre is possible my favorite place on earth.

This is me. That what I dig. I have friends that are all about new experience. They like meeting new people. They like to interact with individuals and meld into different cultural settings. If that is your interest, that’s awesome. However, you will need to set up your travels differently than I set up mine. And that, is good!

I have other friends who are about new personal experiences. They want to skydive, scuba dive, BASE jump, or surf. They want to ride motorcycles in the desert (I do enjoy this). They want to test themselves against something new. That’s cool too. These people set up their travels differently than the two groups above.

It is important to know why you want to travel, and what new experiences that you want to experience. This way you end up travelling the right way. You also end up travelling to the right places, at the right times. And, most importantly, for the right reasons.

I structure art and architecture into my plans, and I go to new places to see new things. I understand what I want to see before I decide to buy my plane tickets. I know the experiences that I want to have before I start looking at new destinations. When I do start looking, I look for the things I wish to find.

I have to admit that I also have traveling friends who have no preconceived ideas about what they want. They simply want something different than what they currently are experiencing. I think these people may have to hardest problems in choosing a new travel experience, simply because everything presents itself as new and exciting. I’m happy I don’t have that problem.

I guess all of this boils down to: understanding what you want makes it easier to get what you want. Sitting down and thinking about what you want to do is a solid use of your time. I do this a lot. I do it while watching TV or doing other residential tasks. If I see something on a TV show and it looks awesome, I put it on the list of new places. Sometimes I go there, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it takes five or six years before I get there.

Case in point. I watched a show on Machu Picchu back in 1995. It looked cool. I really wanted to go there. I did. In September of 2012 I bought a plane ticket to Lima, Peru, and went to find the Not-So-Lost city of the Inca. That’s how it happens in my world. Never just let the idea go. Because, it may not be the best idea this year, but it may be THE BEST idea next year. There really is no explaining it sometimes.

No matter what possesses you to go exploring, embrace it! Figure out what makes you happy and chase after that. Find that things that gives your travel meaning and do that. Travel should be a lot of things, but most important is that it should not be something that you don’t want it to be. If you like old building, like I do, great. If you like meeting new people, great. If you like having new experiences, great. Go do that. And, take a lot of pictures while you do. You’ll be happy that you did.

Now, go. Get out there.

Aaron.

 

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Machu Picchu, September of 2012. Taken by yours-truly, from the corner of the entry path. It is one of those places on the globe that will make you happy you put forth the effort to go there. Seriously.

 

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